Demolition Operative

The Job and What's Involved

Demolition operatives demolish or dismantle buildings and structures. The work also involves site preparation, stripping out fittings and removing reusable materials. The work they do depends on their level of experience.

Operatives begin by erecting screens, dustsheets and fences around sites. They help to erect safety rails on roofs and seal off drains. They also clean, grade and sort materials for reuse.

Demolition operatives may have additional duties and responsibilities which can include:

  • With at least two years' experience, stripping out fittings, removing doors and windows, preparing and erecting roof protection, demolishing roof structures and carrying out hand demolition.
  • With at least three years' experience, cutting steel with oxy-fuel cutting equipment, working at heights, stripping fragile roof coverings and instructing others in safe demolition practices.

Demolition operatives use a variety of hand and power tools (such as pneumatic hammer drills) to carry out jobs. They also use plant machinery, such as 360-degree excavators with demolition attachments.

Safety procedures are very strict, especially for those jobs involving roof demolition and working at heights. All demolition operatives receive safety training and site inductions to make sure they are aware of all potential hazards on site, including the dangers of handling asbestos, lead and electricity.

The normal working week is 39 hours, but weekend work and overtime are often required.

The work is mainly outdoors in dirty, dusty, noisy conditions and in all weathers. It involves working at heights, lifting and bending. Protective personal equipment, such as safety helmets, boots, gloves, ear defenders and goggles, are provided by the employer, with clear instructions as to when it is to be worn. For some jobs, breathing equipment is also provided.

Demolition operatives travel to different parts of the country and may spend variable periods away from home. A driving licence is useful.

Starting salaries may be around £12,000 a year. Demolition operatives may earn significantly more with overtime pay. They may also receive extra payments for operating plant machinery.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Extensive building and development programmes ensure that there will always be a demand for demolition and land clearance throughout the country. Most of the work is in 'brownfield' areas where new development is taking place. Brownfield land is an area of land or premises that has been previously used, but has subsequently become vacant, derelict or contaminated. Brownfield sites usually require some preparatory work before any new development goes ahead.

Specialist companies are employed for this work. Some are national companies, but they tend to be concentrated in urban and the older industrial areas of the UK. They include specialised contractors, skilled in demolishing large chimneys and buildings.

Jobs are advertised in the local press and in Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

Formal qualifications are not essential for this work, but some GCSE's (A-D) can be useful, including maths, English, and science subjects.

A demolition operative Apprenticeship, run by CITB-ConstructionSkills, is available for entrants of 16 and over. The 16-week residential course combines practical training with classroom-based lessons in all aspects of demolition work. More details can be found on the CITB-ConstructionSkills website. Entrants under 18 would be trained as construction plant operatives, as demolition operatives need to be at least 18.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

All operatives in the demolition industry must be assessed for competence under the Demolition Operatives' Scheme. They need to do safety training, and reach the required standard in a health and safety test related to demolition (done on a touch screen).

Demolition operatives with very little experience can get a training specification and training record book from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). They then need to complete all the activities in the training book to the standard required.

When they have at least one year's experience, they can apply to be assessed as a demolition operative 1 (labourer) by the National Federation of Demolition Contractors. With at least two years' experience, they can apply to be assessed as a demolition operative 2, or with three years' experience or more, a demolition operative 3.

To gain a full competence card, demolition operatives need an NVQ Level 2 in Demolition.

To progress further, operatives can take the following courses:

  • The demolition supervisors' distance learning course: a 12-week course which provides a natural career progression from demolition operative 1 (labourer), to demolition supervisor.
  • The demolition chargehand course: a two-day course covering a wide range of demolition subjects. This course allows progression from demolition operative 3 to demolition operative 3 (chargehand).
  • NVQ Level 3 in Demolition.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Demolition operatives should:

  • Be fit enough to cope with the physical demands of the job.
  • Be able to work at heights.
  • Have manual skills for operating tools and equipment.
  • Have a responsible attitude towards safe working practices.
  • Be able to work as members of a team and co-operate with others.
  • Have an aptitude for some of the more delicate tasks, such as hand demolition.

Your Long Term Prospects

Within the larger contracting companies there are opportunities for experienced operatives to progress to supervisory and management levels.

Self-employment is unusual, although experienced operatives may set up their own contracting businesses.

Get Further Information

CITB-Construction Skills,
Bircham Newton, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577 577
Websites: and

CITB-Construction Skills Education Unit,
4 Edison Street, Hillington, Glasgow G52 4XN
Tel: 0141 810 3044

National Demolition Training Group,
c/o CITB-Construction Skills, Charnwood Wing,
Holywell Park, Ashby Road, Loughborough,
Leicestershire LE11 3GJ
Tel: 01509 282914

National Federation of Demolition Contractors,
Resurgam House, 1A New Road, The Causeway,
Staines, Middlesex TW18 3DH
Tel: 01784 456799

Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC),
Scottish Building, Carron Grange, Carrongrange Avenue,
Stenhousemuir FK5 3BQ
Tel: 01324 555550

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